Friday, November 21, 2014

God Sees Me {Part 4}

We celebrated my baby girl's FIRST birthday this week, so I took a break from our God Sees Me series, but today I want to conclude with a story that had my jaw on the floor as God confirmed in an astounding way that He does indeed see me, hear me, love me, and want what is best for me.  

If you remember, I went on a Women's Retreat last weekend, having just finished up Sara Hagerty's new book Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet (highly recommend it, but have your Kleenex ready).

As I drove to spend the next couple days with some amazing sister friends, I had God's precious promise tucked deep within my heart.

All throughout the weekend, God continued to help me uncover this treasured truth.  From having the opportunity to be real, honest, authentic with my small group as I shared my big, scary, humanly impossible, only-God-can-do-it dream on Saturday morning (see Part 1) to Christine Caine's message challenging me to speak God's Word over the fact of my circumstances and boldly enter the Promised Land of freedom (see Part 2) to telling my small group how God had miraculously provided for a dear friend in direct response to my prayers earlier in the week (see Part 3), I was overwhelmed with His faithfulness and goodness.  I was reminded of the DEPTH of His love for me, and also inspired to live in response to that amazing, gracious, abundant love.  I could have gone home with an overflowing heart on Saturday night, but as the snow fell, God kept pouring out more of Himself into my soul.

Sunday morning, our children's pastor spoke to us live in person.  She had missed the first part of the retreat due to a surprise vacation her husband had planned that just so happened to coincide with the retreat.  We were all delighted to see her Saturday evening, and I was excited to see what God had laid on her heart to share with us as we wrapped up the weekend on Sunday morning.  

After sharing some laughs about various real life moments, Jeanne explained how God had very directly laid the story of Hagar on her heart.  The story of Abraham and Sarah's slave woman was not what Jeanne had expected to speak on, but of all the things God could have given her, that is what He did.  And so, she obediently prepared a message from Genesis chapters 16 and 21. 

The topic couldn't have been more perfect.
I am surprised I didn't cry out when she read from Genesis 16:

"Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her.
She said, 'You are the God who sees me.' 
She also said, 'Have I truly seen the One who sees me?'
So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means "Well of the Living One who sees me").
It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered.

Of all the things Jeanne could have spoken on, God put Hagar on her heart.  
Of all the passages in Scripture, Jeanne could have used, God directed her to Genesis 16 where we see Him called a new name - the God who sees.

And if that wasn't enough, she continued and read more of Hagar's story in Genesis 21.  Even though we do not see God called by this new name here, we do recognize once more that He SAW Hagar, and her son Ishmael.  We can't deny His love for her, as displayed in His faithful and gracious provision for them, as they sat in the wilderness to die.  Instead, He opens Hagar's eyes so that SHE CAN SEE the well and get something for her son to drink.

The God who sees helped His daughter see...

Yes, the God who sees me, who sees YOU, first helps us see Himself.
He shows us who He is...

He opens our eyes so we can see what He is doing all around us...
He shows us the path He has laid out for us...
And if we are willing, His hand is reaching out, ready for us to take hold, so He can guide us every single step of the way...

I don't know where you are at today.
I don't know everything you are going through right now.
But one thing I know for sure: GOD SEES YOU.
And He loves you.
He cares about you, deeply.
He died that you might live.
And now, today, He wants to fill you with His power and presence and peace and joy and hope.
He wants to make Himself known to you.

Open your eyes so you can see...
For the God who sees you is ready to show you marvelous things today.

I smile as I look at this beautiful butterfly.
This picture is yet another reminder to me of God's amazing eyesight and His attention to the smallest of details in my life.

You see, my baby girl turned one on the 19th.  For her birthday party that we will be having with family this coming week, we are having a BUTTERFLY theme.  As I was writing this God Sees Me series, I was filled with excitement and anticipation as I felt God on the move within me.  I could sense Him working in me and THROUGH me.  He was whispering to me all over again, "I know your dreams.  I placed them there in your heart.  Are you ready to become the new creation I designed you to be?  Are you ready to see your dreams come true?"

I posted a picture of a different butterfly with the verse 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone; the new has come."

At the time, I also saw this picture, 

and I think it's a fitting way to conclude this post and the series all together.  As we rest in the promise that GOD SEES US, may we then keep our eyes open to see Him in a new, fresh light.  

More so, may we begin to see ourselves the way our Creator sees us.  
And in so doing, may we join together in a RESOLVE TO BE NEW.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kyiah Hesed {One Year Old}

Today, we stopped by Lawrence's school to drop off crickets for the class frog.  As I chatted with the secretary in the office, I asked her if she remembered the phone call I made last year on this day.

I hadn't wanted to call.
I didn't want to let her know I was in labor.
Granted, I was 15 days past my due date, and everyone was expecting me to have the baby at any point, but still, I didn't want anyone to know when contractions actually started.

I had told my midwife earlier that afternoon when I was at her house for a prenatal appointment.  Hoping it would be my last one, but not overly excited about the contractions I was having, despite their regularity at 5 minutes by the time I left her house to make the nearly hour drive home.  I assured her I would give her a call that night if anything noteworthy was happening.

My previous 2 labors were relatively fast.
9 hours.
6 hours.
But for some reason, I was anticipating a long, hard, drawn-out labor this time around.  I had heard those 3rd babies could throw you for a loop.

Well, mine did.
But not the way I was thinking...

A friend came over to wrap at 3 pm.
I was having contractions the entire time she was there tightening, toning, and firming.
When she left at 4, I helped a friend order some greens, taking his information while having pretty strong contractions.  Hanging up the phone, I decided I was indeed in labor and to the point where I would really appreciate a back rub or massage.

I looked at the clock.
The secretary would be in the office for another 15 minutes at least.
I could wait...

2 minutes later, I was on the floor, dialing the number and trying to hide any emotion from voice.  When she excitedly asked me if I was in labor, I tried to be as non-chalant as possible.  Maybe.
As soon as Lawrence came on the line, I told him to come home NOW.

Thankfully, we live a mile from his school.
If you want to read the whirlwind of a birth story, check it out here!

For now, let's just say I didn't give him much time to get his head in the game.
Kyiah Hesed was born at 4:54, just 22 minutes after I called him to come home!

Our midwife didn't quite get there in time, seeing as how Kyiah decided to come so quickly.

Time hasn't slowed down much in the past year!  Today, my baby girl turned ONE!!!
How is that even possible?

The bow is bigger than she is, but let me assure you what this little girl lacks in size, she certainly makes up for in personality (much like her 2 older sisters - she has to keep up with them, right)!

She is excellent at making her voice known, and has started saying a few words - mainly Mama, which I am perfectly okay with for now.

She has no fear and is learning to climb - the stairs, onto chairs, and I'm sure she'll be standing on top of the table some morning in the near future when I turn around to get something in the fridge.

Her smile is precious.  Her giggle contagious.  One of my most favorite noises is hearing all 3 of my girls laugh and play together.  I am beyond blessed.

Dance parties are a current favorite

She's been walking for almost 3 months now, so she's almost an expert really.  She just about has running down pat.  She can certainly get where she wants to go, and fast.

One thing she hasn't seemed to master yet is sleeping.  The child has not figured out that 6-8 hours of solid sleep is a beautiful thing.  She doesn't understand that "absence makes the heart grow fonder," but rather likes to make sure I am doing okay all throughout the night.  Every 2-3 hours or so, she lets me know she was thinking about me... So sweet of her...

Maybe this lack of sleep is due to the fact that she is getting her molars in.  Well, the 2 of them up top are already there and the bottom 2 are well on their way.  No fever or anything to give me a clue this was happening and that my baby girl was growing up before my very eyes.  It just happened.  Without my permission...

Put those teeth to good use eating an apple

As I again realize how quickly time flies, I am reminding myself once more to cherish every moment, to soak it all in, while I can.

At night lately, as I try to hold and rock my baby girl, I pray over her, asking God to help her hunger and thirst for Him, to love Him with an all-out passion and to live wholeheartedly with resolute purpose.  I pray for her to live up to her name Kyiah Hesed - LIFE, steadfast, loyal, faithful.  I long to see her used of God to make Him known, to be a living testimony of His unending, never-failing abundant, gracious love for us.

If you want to know more about how we came to choose her name and why it has such special meaning to us, check out this post I wrote back when she was born.

Sadly, my prayers over her can't be too long, at least not if I want to be holding and rocking her while saying them.  Kyiah isn't one to sit still for long at all.  She's a squirmy wormy girl, as her 2 older sisters were.  I like to believe that this an indication that my daughters are movers and shakers.  They will get things done.  They will impact lives and change the world.

Heck, they already are.
They've changed my life for sure!!!

I still haven't figured out how a year has gone by, but it has.
Happy birthday, my precious Kyiah Hesed!!!
I love you to the moon and back!

Yes, go, my love. Go, and change the world!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

God Sees Me {Part 3}

Several times yesterday and again this morning, I have gotten messages and texts from people encouraged by the promise that God sees them.  Others have commented on my posts on Facebook, letting me know they needed that word at that very moment in their lives.  Each time, I am reminded yet again that God does indeed see me.  And you.

If you missed Part 1 or Part 2 of this series, be sure to catch up and then come back here to continue on as I share more about the way God revealed this precious truth to me during Women's Retreat this past weekend.

Before I dive in, I have to smile.  I just turned on the radio to listen to K-Love while I type, and what would be playing except for the song God has been using to reinforce the reality of the power inside of me, the divine power that strengthens me and enables me to gain the victory over my enemy, who doesn't seem to want to admit he's a loser and will never ever be able to defeat me.  He's a persistent fellow, and as he launches attack after attack after attack on me, I will keep on reminding him, "Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world!"

Okay, now that I've got that beat in my heart, I can go on about how God made Himself known to me as I spent the weekend with my sister friends from church.  But first, I have to trace my steps and share a story about the day BEFORE the Women's Retreat...

On Wednesday evening, I got a message from a friend.
She was extremely discouraged.
Overwhelmed with life's circumstances.
The frustrations.
The disappointments.
The difficulties.
The were just too much.
For too long.
She was ready to give up and throw in the towel.
She had poured her heart out to God, and He hadn't seem to hear.
He didn't seem to be coming through for her and her family.

I went before God for my friend.
I got on my knees, pleading for her.  Begging God to act on her behalf.  Pleading with Him to make Himself known, to show her His love, to flood her with His grace, to blow her away with His faithfulness, to simply provide for her needs.

I had planned a prayer time with my It Works team for Thursday morning at 10.  I took each name before the Lord, asking Him to bless their marriages, to give them wisdom in parenting, and for other requests they had as individuals.  I also petitioned for my friend, for she had been longing to join my team, but finances hadn't worked out.  Something was always coming up.  She was getting impatient.  Tired of waiting.  And so I prayed for her too, that God would make a way, that He would break through her situation in such a way that we would have to give Him all the glory.

I'm not sure what time my friend called me, but she did.
"I'm ready to sign up for It Works!"

This was a complete turn around from last night.
How was this possible?

Because my God SEES me.
And He HEARS me.

He saw my friend.
He heard her cries.
And answered.
In a big way.

She had gotten a check for $500 from a random church.
Talk about coming through in a big way.
In a God-alone-could-have-done-that way.

Much like He had when Kellah (now almost 3) was just born.  We were on WIC, not knowing how in the world to pay our bills, buy food, put gas in the cars - one of which was on its last mile and not really safe to drive in the first place.  We were desperate.  And completely dependent on God to provide for us.  He HAD to come through for us.

He saw us then.
He heard our prayers.
And answered.
We too got a check for $500 in the mail one day.  A short note read, "Kellah is so blessed to have parents like you."
To this day, I don't know what gracious soul sent us that money, but I am eternally grateful.

Just as my friend was on Thursday.
She called me in tears.
Tears of joy.
And hope.

She came over on Friday and joined my team.  She has complete peace that God opened the door for her to do this and is expectant for Him to bless her business so that they can use her income to provide for their family.

With this amazing testimony of God's goodness, I went to Women's Retreat.
God LOVES to give us opportunities to share with others how He is at work in our lives, and so He flung the door open wide for me to do so on Saturday afternoon.  We had just completed our afternoon session, challenged once more by an amazing speaker at the IF Conference.  We then gathered in our small group once more.  We sat back down in our mismatched chairs, space heater blaring, and we pulled out another slip of paper from the bag.

"What is a way that God has answered your prayers?"

Ooooh!!!  Oooooh!!!  Pick me!! Pick me!!!  
Let me just go ahead and tell you how He answered a HUGE prayer yesterday!
We all went around and shared how God had HEARD our cries and shown Himself faithful, how He let us know that He SAW us, loved us, cared for us, and would come through for us.

As I sat there, I was overcome with the promise that the God who SEES me also HEARS me.
In fact, His hearing is much like His perfect 20/20 vision. 

This morning I read several verses in Scripture to confirm what He was already showing me:

"The Lord HEARS His people when they call to Him for help.  
He rescues them from all their troubles."  
~Psalm 34:17

"Morning, noon, and night I cry out in my distress,
and the Lord HEARS my voice."
~Psalm 55:17

"I love the Lord because He HEARS my voice and my prayer for mercy."
~Psalm 116:1

Every comment, message, and text I received yesterday and today, letting me know my words spoke to someone at the very moment they needed it are testimony to the promise that God not only SEES me but He HEARS me too.

He hears YOU too.
He is listening.
Call out to Him.
He delights in you.

"The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He DELIGHTS in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will NEVER fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand."
~Psalm 37:23-24

"For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty Savior.
He will take DELIGHT in you with gladness.
With His love, He will calm all your fears.
He will REJOICE over you with joyful songs."
~Zephaniah 3:17

How fitting as I wrap up this post, another meaningful song lately came on the radio.  Francesca Battistelli's "He Knows My Name" couldn't have been a better way to confirm the promises God has been speaking to me time and time again the past several days:

I love you...

Monday, November 17, 2014

God Sees Me {Part 2}

Yesterday, I shared how God confirmed to me on a Women's Retreat this past weekend that HE SEES ME.  Today, I want to expound on my experience at the retreat and how God continued to speak to me during every session and our small group times as well.

As I listened to the women from the IF Conference, I connected to them.  Not because I could relate to their personal stories, but rather because we serve the same God.

I have no idea what the first woman (can't remember her name for the life of me) endured while she was trapped in human trafficking.

I couldn't really relate to the second woman (can't remember her name either - I was a bit distracted by my baby girl who wasn't content to sit and listen quietly but rather wanted to play in the fireplace and such during the session) who shared how she had an amazingly close relationship with her father growing up.  My dad and I got along okay, but he was certainly not my best friend.  If anything, I was scared of him more than anything.  And when he worked in Ohio while my mom and I lived in Kansas, I didn't see him except on weekends, which were packed with athletic events, church, and homework.  Thankfully, God has healed the hurts from my relationship with my dad.  That's in the past, and now I am amazed to watch him play with my 3 daughters and love on them in the most precious way.  In turn, my girls LOVE their Grampy!

The third speaker was from Australia, abandoned as a baby, unnamed.
I am not from "down under."  I don't have a cool accent.  And my parents have wanted and loved me since birth.  BUT, as she shared her story, anyone within 300 miles of this woman would be able to sense her passion and excitement about God, about serving Him, about pursuing Him wholeheartedly and making Him known everywhere she went.  Anyone looking at her would be able to tell she lived with purpose, intent on helping others recognize the deliverance they have been given because of Jesus' death on the cross.  Anyone who took 2.4 seconds to listen to what she had to say would realize she was intent on leading others to FREEDOM so they could experience the life God has for them.

Her enthusiasm was contagious.
Her excitement bubbled out of her, hopped off the screen, and jumped inside my own belly.

As she spoke of putting generational gaps aside and working together, I wanted to shout AMEN!

As she challenged us to NOT get stuck but to remember God has given us new life, that we are new creations, I couldn't help but smile and feel good inside about who I am in Christ right now.

As she encouraged us to NOT look at ourselves as victims but to MOVE ON, I wanted to cry out, "Yes, Jesus!!  Help me do that!"

As she read Scripture and reinforced that the TRUTH of God's Word is more powerful than the fact of our circumstances, I wanted to scream out, "Yes, yes, YES!!!!  God is bigger."  I even thought about breaking out with Mercy Me's song, "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world!"

As the session ended, and my baby girl was tugging at my arm and trying her best to rip the pen out of my hands, I jotted down:
Don't stifle my excitement or enthusiasm.
Be bold.
Be diligent.
Spark a fire!
Ignite passion...

We were then dismissed to our small groups, where we soon shared what we were longing for, where I barred my heart and let those women know the big, scary, humanly impossible, God-sized dreams stirring deep within my soul.

How fitting that not 30 minutes earlier, I had been encouraged to pursue my passions, to live boldly.  Coincidental that we first talked about how FEAR can keep us from being authentic?  I think not.

You see, I struggle with fear.
Big time.
I worry about what others will think of me.
How do I look in my clothes?
Am I thin enough?  fit enough?  stylish enough?
Heck, am I enough, period?
Do I measure up...
As a wife?  as a mother?  
What will people think of me if I talk about the wraps or greens or amazing business opportunity with It Works?  Will they roll their eyes, shake their heads, whisper behind my back?  Will they think I am crazy, gone off the deep end, obsessed?
What will people think of me if I share something God has done in my life, how I love Jesus more than anything else, how I talk with Him, how I want to do make sure I am following His plan for my life and honoring Him in all that I do?
Basically, every thing I do, every word I say, every decision I make, I am worried about what others will think.

Can we say I have a problem with fear?
At times it's crippling.
Certainly not freeing...

So, when I watched this woman on stage and heard her speak, I wanted want she had.

I feel like I have the passion.
The enthusiasm is there.
The belief is solid.
I am confident in what God has called me to do, to be.

The problem comes when it's time to put rubber to the road.
When it's time to live out those dreams He's put in my heart, I get scared.
I worry. 
I fret.

And so I hold back.
I simmer down.
I keep quiet.

And not just me, but the countless lives God wants to change via the message He has given me to share with them.

I think no one sees me, shrinking back in the corner, trying to hide or at best trying to blend in.
And He knows my heart.

He's ready to unlock the chains, to set me free.
Free from myself more than anything.
And I am ready to let the chains fall.
For good.

As I am overwhelmed with the promise that GOD SEES ME, He reminds me that He has called me to help others see Him.

And so I can't keep quiet.
Not anymore.

The God who sees me accepts me the way I am.  He made me that way.  And He LOVES me.
Check out Psalm 139...

His love casts out fear.
Look in 1 John 4 for more on that...

He has called me by name.
Isaiah 49:1...

He has set a course for my life and will equip me with all I need to complete it.
2 Peter 1:3 assures me I have everything I need for this life of godliness...
The entire book of 1 Peter speaks of God's power and promises at work in my life to fulfill the calling He has for me as I use the specific, divine, supernatural gifts He has given me.

And so I am urged to live my life for the One who has saved me and set me free.
I cannot be conformed.
Rather, I must be transformed.
Then in turn, help others do the same...
Romans 12:1-2

More so, I am asked to consider everything else rubbish in comparison to KNOWING this God and invited to pursue Him with every fiber of my being, giving all I have and leaving everything else behind so that I can receive the ultimate prize when I finally stand before my Savior and King.
Philippians 3:7-14

Finally, I am reminded that I am NOT alone on this journey.
Others have gone before me.
More are traveling with me, blinders on, eyes FIXED on Jesus, set on a common goal.
Take a look in Hebrews 12, and glance back at chapter 11 while you're there...

Then, know this...still more are following behind me, behind YOU, behind US.
I am showing them the way.  So are you.
The future generation depends on ME (and YOU).

Just as I didn't get where I am today on my own, they will not get where they need to be without me, without you, without US.
Someone paid the price for me.  For you.
Shouldn't I then, also be willing to pay the price for those yet to come. 
For my daughters.
And hopefully my sons...

THIS is why I can't be quiet.
Not anymore.

The God who SEES me has CALLED me out.
He has set me FREE.
No more settling for deliverance.
No more wandering in the wilderness.
It's time to move into the Promised Land!
(You might have to listen to the session where Christine Caine explained this to fully understand what I am saying and where I am coming from here.)

God is on the move in my life.
He is doing something new.
And I am excited!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

God Sees Me {Part 1}

Before I left for a Women's Retreat this weekend, I finished reading Sara Hagerty's inspiring and challenging book Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet.

I first met Sara when she came to my childbirth class, very pregnant with her 5th child, but the first of whom had been carried within her own womb.  You see, she had welcomed 4 beautiful children into her heart via adoption, but this was the first baby to grow inside her physical body.  When I received her email letting me know she was expecting and interested in taking the classes, I noticed the link for her blog under her electronic signature.  Seeing as how I enjoy writing and blogging myself, I immediately checked out what this unknown woman (with a wonderful name) had to say.  I learned of her story, how she and her husband Nate had adopted 4 children from Africa.  That was just the tip of a HUGE iceberg, though.  Little did I know, the woman I greeted at the door several weeks later for our first class was in the middle of publishing her first book.  Little did I know the agony and pain and grief and sorrow and tears and prayers that came with her baby bump.  Since then, I have read her book.  And now I know.

Looking back, I am honored and humbled to have played a small role in helping Sara and Nate prepare for Boaz's arrival.  I smile and shake my head at the ways God works.  At the way He puts people into my life at the times He does and the situations and circumstances He uses to get them there.

As I closed the cover to Sara's book, tears in my eyes, a promise resounded deep within my soul.  Just as God had taught Sara that He saw her, He was reminding me of the same truth in my life.  I clung to that beautiful assurance.

Later that day, I packed my bags for a Women's Retreat, excited to see what God would have for me as a I spent a weekend with other women, my sister friends from church.  I was ready and expectant to be in His presence, praying for my eyes to see and my ears to hear what He would have for me to learn about Him, about myself, about our relationship.

I was not disappointed.

Each session resounded that truth - GOD SEES ME.
And I will share more about that in Part 2.
For now, however, I want to highlight how God made it abundantly clear that He does indeed see me, right now, right where I am at in life and how I am feeling about my present circumstances.

He sees.
He knows.
He cares.

After our morning session on Saturday, we broke off into pre-determined small groups.  I was a leader of one of these groups, though I assured my sisters I was simply the facilitator and we would all be contributing equally to the discussion that would take place.  We had been given a bag of slips of paper, each with a question on them.  We were instructed to simply pull a slip from the bag and answer the question as our group saw fit.  We could pass on a question if we didn't like it or find that it related well to our group.  We could go as deep as we wanted with our response.  How the next hour or so went would be different for each of the small groups.

The women in my group gathered together in a small room, turned on the space heater (seeing as how it was 27 degrees outside and we were shivering), and sat down, each in a unique chair pulled from all corners of the cabin.

We started out with the question, "How could we bless others out of the overflow of our healthiest relationships?"

I'm not sure why exactly, but one of the women shared how she was really struggling right now.  As she described it, she was in a "funk."  We didn't judge her, but rather thanked her for being open and honest and REAL with us.  We kept talking a bit about blessing others and then moved on to question #2:

"What is the one thing that keeps you from being truly authentic with others?"

I felt this was a perfect follow up, as we were sitting there crying and being completely authentic with each other at that very moment.  No covering things up.  No walls.  No facades.  Just brutal honesty, whether it was pretty or not.  And it was GOOD.

We talked about how various things can keep us from being real, authentic.
But everything we mentioned seemed to have a common thread - FEAR.

Fear holds us back from opening up and letting people see our hearts, our dreams, our inner selves.
Fear tells us people won't like us or accept us if they find out who we really are.
Fear convinces us to be safe.
Fear ties us up, strangles us, slowly kills us.
If we're honest...

Our initial conversation laid the foundation for openness, honesty, authenticity among us in that room.  We had chosen to push fear aside and be real instead.

We had time for one more question.
I pulled one out, and we were all like, "What did that say?  What does that mean?"  None of us understood what was being asked or how to answer, and so we unanimously agreed to pick a different question.

This one was the kicker, for me at least...

"Even in the midst of gratitude, is there something you're longing for?"

As I listened to everyone else share what was heavy on their hearts, what yearnings were deep within them, I couldn't help but want to keep my ultimate longing to myself.  I would just share a different desire, equally wanted, but not my big, scary, humanly impossible, so-crazy-only-God-can-fulfill-it dream.  After all, I was still wrestling with the idea of that dream - was it selfish, was it of me or of God, was it wrong of me to want what I did?

I couldn't push it aside though.
Not then.
Not for the past 18 months.

Deep down inside I know this desire is indeed of God.
And yet the enemy keeps trying to convince me my dream is too big, too hard, just too much...

When I get past that part and believe beyond a shadow of doubt that God can make this dream a reality in my life (read Ephesians 2:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, 1 Corinthians 2:9, and Ephesians 3:20 if you doubt me), then I face another battle.  I'm being selfish, greedy.  At least that's what Satan whispers in my ear time and time again.

I am learning - slowly but surely - to tune him out and listen instead to the voice of God, the voice of Truth, the voice of LOVE, the voice of the One who created me, who knitted me together in my mother's womb, who placed these dreams and desires within me, who wants to use me for His glory and bring many sons and daughters into His forever family so they too can experience His power and mercy and grace and peace and hope and joy.

So, when my turn came, I took a deep breath and shared BOTH my "silly" longing and then my much deeper - and scary - dream...

While I am extremely blessed to be a mom of 3 beautiful girls, one of whom I was holding as she slept peacefully on my chest, I have to be honest and admit that I would LOVE a son.  Two actually.  I am presently praying earnestly for twin boys (and you can feel free to join me in this).

After we had our laugh, I delved into my "real" answer:

I LONG to be a published author.
I DREAM of sharing my story on stage, challenging and encouraging and uplifting thousands of men and women (especially my fellow mamas) all around the world.
I YEARN to be in the top 100 earners of It Works, the natural health and wellness company I joined 21 months ago.
I PRAY God will use this company, this role, as a TOOL to fulfill my longings and dreams.

As people read my book(s), as they listen to me on stage, I want them to hear JESUS, to see HIM in me.  As they learn my story, they will soon realize it's actually GOD'S story.  They will find His fingerprints everywhere.  They won't be able to deny that He alone could bring about the events of my life.  They will join me in praising Him.  They will be overcome with the desire to KNOW God personally, to be filled with His Spirit, to dwell in His presence.

I am ever so grateful for where I am at in life right now.
Married to my best friend.
The mother of 3 precious girls.
A stay at home mom.
Doing things I love.
I am blessed.

But, as the question indicated, and if I am honest, I long for MORE...

So, I barred my heart before these women.
They didn't laugh at me.
They didn't judge me.
They didn't accuse me of being selfish or greedy.
They didn't tell me my dream was too big, too hard, too much.

Instead, they agreed with me that this longing was from God.
They prayed with me and for me that God would bring this dream to fulfillment, in His timing.

As I held their hands, their words penetrated deep within my soul.
They stirred up the yearnings God had placed there.
And as my emotions swelled, I could hear God whispering in my ear, "I see you." 

He understands my dreams.
He knows my heart.
He sees me.

We could have picked any slip of paper out of our bag, but we picked that one, the one with the question about the longings of our soul.

And in being asked that question, I was given the freedom to answer openly, honestly.
In so doing, I was also given the freedom, I believe, to pursue my dream.

Again, I felt as though God nodded His head.
I see you.
I know that desire.
I placed it within you.

The remainder of the weekend only continued to confirm this promise, but that is for another blog post at another time...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


On Sunday, I ran my first ever half marathon.

I didn't really train.
But I like to run.
Actually, I have LEARNED to LOVE running.
As a mom of 3 young girls, running is my only true "alone" time.  My "me" time.  My prayer time.  My talk with Jesus, pray with Jesus, LISTEN to Jesus time.

And so, I decided to run a half marathon.
Way back in January, when everyone writes down their goals for the year, I listed that I wanted to run a 5K, a 10K, and a half marathon.

Here it was November, and I hadn't checked the half marathon box.
I hadn't really even looked around to find a half marathon close to my area to run.
I successfully completed a 5K...

*Can't seem to find a picture, but I promise I did it! :)

And a 10K...

Ran that one in the pouring down rain.
Up several hills.  (Hence the name of the run - Hospital HILL)
Had a personal best time and blew myself away really with how well I did (51:59).
My goal time was an hour...

Going into my half marathon, I didn't have high expectations for myself.
I was simply thankful to be able to run.
You see, when I was 18, I never thought I would be able to run again.

Several days before the State Track Meet (which I was super excited to have qualified for in 2 events), I tore cartilage in both knees.  Instead of pole vaulting and running the first leg in a 4x100 relay, I was hobbling around on crutches.

Rather than playing collegiate volleyball, I sat on the sidelines as the team manager and spent practices upstairs in the weight room doing rehab.  I had put my crutches away just days before arriving in Chicago for my freshmen year.

Then, that fall, walking to my daycare job, I somehow managed to dislocate the screw holding my cartilage in place in my right knee.   I then spent my Christmas vacation having a third knee surgery and on crutches once more.

By the grace of God, I was able to re-introduce exercise into my daily routine again.  Instead of running, I took up biking.  I would read page after page of my college textbooks while pedaling away on the stationary bike.  I spent HOURS in the gym.  My junior and senior years, I was able to enjoy the Chicago lakefront as a runner!!!  I also got to scrimmage with the girls' basketball team, play intramural sports, and basically enjoy whatever physical activity I wanted.  Blessed beyond words.

Having lived in Chicago during college, I got to witness the Chicago marathon every year, four times over.  One year, I even called my mom and jokingly told her I had ran in the marathon.  Granted, I just had to cross the street to get to the bus taking us to church that morning, but still... I technically had run IN the Chicago marathon...

Fast forward nearly 10 years (man do I feel old), and here I am seriously considering running the whole Chicago Marathon come October 2015.

Why not?
If I can run a half marathon, then I bet I could run a full one.

But not on my own.'
I've already asked a friend to consider running with me.
For the half marathon, I signed up so late, I didn't really have time to find a friend to jump at the chance to run with me, last minute.  So I ran solo.  I did come to realize a few people I knew were also running the race, but when I randomly crossed paths with them that morning as we all lined up at the starting line, it was a little late to ask if I could join their band of buddies who had trained together over the past several months.

I figured I would use the next 2.5 hours or so as "Jesus and me" time.  I found the K-Love app on my phone, put my earphones in, and let the worship music carry me the first 7 miles or so.  Then, the app stopped working and the silence in my ears was nearly deafening.  Suddenly, I was hurting and feeling tired and wondering how much longer I could go on like this.  I quickly pulled my phone out of my flip belt, switched to the Air 1 app.  My ears and heart were flooded once more with songs of praise, and I was able to pound out the next 3 miles with confidence.

At mile 10, I was coming up to a water station when I saw one of the Pacers just up ahead.  He was looking back to see if anyone was wanting to finish out the race with him.  In his hand was a 2:00 sign!!!  I smiled, surprised I had caught up with him, seeing as how I started out with the 2:15 group and had slowly passed one person after another.  A friend had given me some advice that helped her when she ran a half marathon.  "Look in front of you and pick out a person who you think shouldn't be running faster than you.  Then, make it your goal to pass them."  And so that is what I had done, mile after mile after mile.  As the Pacer glanced back, I raised my hand and waved, indicating that I was intent on finishing the course with him.

He didn't wait for me though.

I made it my goal to catch up to him, and I did.
As I ran by his side, he asked me if had started out ahead or behind him.
Behind.  Way behind.

He let me know we were right on track now and that I would be able to finish strong.
Every half mile or so, he would encourage me and yell back at others behind us that they too could make the race in 2 hours.

Around mile 11.5, we came up to a man who was just stopping to walk.  Both the Pacer and I coached him, "Keep going.  Don't stop now.  You're almost there.  You can do it.  Come with us!"

And so he did.

We continued running together until mile 12.
One mile left.
It was go time.
I didn't have anything left, but adrenaline kicked in.
There were still people in front of me who shouldn't be.
So, I started to pass them, one by one.

Mile 13.
I could see the finish line ahead.
I saw the clock ticking.

I was really going to do it!
I was going to break the 2 hour mark!
I sprinted ahead, determined to beat the girl next to me.
We crossed the finish line together.

Exhausted and panting, I knelt on the side of the road.
My bladder let me know I couldn't rest for long.
I quickly got up, received my Finisher's Medal, and made my way to the nearest Port-a-Potty.
First, of course, I had to stop and capture the moment with a selfie...

Once I had gone to the bathroom, I walked to my car as fast as I could.
Funny, my legs had felt fine during the race.  All 13.1 miles of it.
But, as soon as I stopped running, they felt all wobbly.  Like jello.
I knew I was going to be sore the next day.
Right then, though, I had one thing on my mind - getting home to my baby girl who would probably want to nurse.

Pretty sure that little girl is my motivating factor.
Knowing she was waiting for me at home when I was running in the pouring rain for my 10K helped me climb the hills and push through any pain or fatigue I may have been feeling.  The same proved true for my half marathon.

Even though my baby girl and her 2 older sisters weren't there in person to cheer me on, they were certainly there with me every step of the way.  I carried their smiles and laughs in my heart.  I ran for them.  To show them that they too can do anything they put their minds to.

Who cares that I've had 3 knee surgeries.
And 2 foot surgeries to remove extra bones.
And had to wear a hip brace for the first 6 weeks of my life.

None of that mattered.
Not when I decided I was going to run a half marathon.
I didn't expect to run it as fast as I did, but I knew no matter what I was going to run it and finish it.
My time was a pleasant surprise, the icing on the cake.

As I reflect on my race and grimace as I walk and laugh at myself going down the stairs backwards like a baby just learning to maneuver them, I can't help but think about how far too often we limit ourselves.

We put ourselves in a box.
We let fear or circumstances keep us from doing something new, from reaching a goal.
We come up with lots of reasons why we can't, when we haven't even tried at all.

And thus we miss out on crossing that finish line.
We don't experience the joy and pride and sense of accomplishment when we surprise ourselves and do better than we ever expected or even imagined possible.

Maybe you're not a runner, and you think I am just plain crazy for running 13.1 miles.
You should have seen all the bumper stickers on the cars in the parking lot at the race.
Now, that's insane!

And while I might raise my eyebrows, deep down inside I have a great respect for those runners.
For those men and women who push past the pain and keep going and going and going.

No matter your stance on running, I would personally be honored to come up beside you, much like the 2:00 Pacer did for me during the half marathon.  I would consider it a privilege to encourage you, support you, motivate you, pray for you, and celebrate with you as you follow the path marked out before you.

Perhaps you are on an uphill climb.
Maybe you're in a valley low.
You might be in a dark tunnel, with not even a hint of light coming through.
You could be plummeting downhill, unable to keep up with the momentum that is pushing you forward when all you want to do is stop and rest.
Maybe you are on the sidelines, just looking on and not sure how to get back in the race, or wondering if you even want to make the effort to do so at all.
Or you might on a flat, boring course.  You can see for miles and miles ahead, but don't like a thing you see.
Perhaps you are at a fork in the road, trying desperately to decide which way to go.

As Robert Frost once did, "take the road less traveled."
It will make all the difference.

The year isn't over yet.
I don't know what goals or resolutions you made for yourself this past January.
I don't know if you have worked on them or not.

But I DO know there is still time to check some boxes, to accomplish some things, to fulfill dreams.

If I can run 13.1 miles, YOU can achieve whatever YOU set YOUR mind to as well.
YOU can do it.
Put your heart into it.
Surprise yourself.

You'll be so very glad you did!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I Just Want YOU

Hair a mess.
Mismatched pajamas.
Stuffed caterpillar in one hand (evidently the precious and beloved animal of choice today).

My almost 3-year-old daughter came downstairs to greet me as I sat with her baby sister in the play room.  I was trying to pick up toys faster than the baby could get them back out.  I was losing.

As I sigh in frustration and admit my defeat, God filled my heart to overflowing once more.
He's really good at that.

But, as my daughter climbed into my lap and squeezed my neck, God also reminded me of an important lesson I need to learn.


Wanting to immediately get up and fix my daughter breakfast, she showed me a better way.
"Do you want oatmeal or cereal this morning?"

"I just want YOU."

That may not have been one of the options, but it was certainly the best choice.
And so we sat there.
She curled up against my chest, and I wrapped my arms tight around her and rested my chin on her head.  I could smell her morning breath, but I kissed her sweet little head time and time again anyway.

As I soaked up that precious moment, God whispered in my ear, "THIS is what I want you to do."

How often am I rushing to get things done?
How many times do I glance at the verse of the day on my Bible app and then get on with my day?
How many times do I offer up a quick plea for help or a half-hearted "God bless them" instead of getting down on my knees and pouring my heart out in TRUE, earnest prayer?

When I did start wanting God's promises and blessings more than I wanted God Himself?!

Just minutes before I read in Sara Hagerty's new book Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet how she too had come to the realization that God was asking her to love Him no matter what, even if He didn't give her the life she so desperately wanted, even if He didn't answer her prayers the way she expected.

She took 3 days to answer His question.
I guess God wanted an answer from me sooner than that.

Only minutes after I soak up her words and posted them on Facebook for the whole world to see (and be impressed at what a good Christian I must be), did God knock on my heart to make sure I knew He meant business.


What about you?
Have you made the same mistake I did?

Are you ready to shift your thinking with me?
Are you willing to work with me to pursue GOD and just the good gifts He has to offer us?

I know I can't do this alone.
I know myself and my tendency to go back to my old ways.
I know I could use support, encouragement, accountability.

If you are up for walking this road with me, please let me know.
If you want to take that step, but are scared or unsure, please let me know.
We can go forward, together.  Hand in hand.
Blinders on.
Eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.
Our joy.
Our prize.
Our ultimate promise.

Yes, I want HIM and Him alone.
And so today, I crawl up on my Heavenly Father's lap, lean against His chest, and sigh deeply as I feel His strong arms wrap tightly around me.  I sense His strength.  I am filled with peace.

I close my eyes and tell Him once more, "I just want YOU."
Surprisingly, I hear my Father echo the same sentiment back to me.

"I just want YOU."

"In His presence is the fullness of joy!" ~Psalm 16:11

Sunday, November 2, 2014

God and CBS

What does being a Marine have to do with ballet?

How did multiple rejections result in the hit series "Friends?"

When does losing your sight help you see the world and show others a better way to live?

God used "Sunday Morning on CBS" to answer all these questions and more before we left for church today.  As I was making breakfast, I listened to these 3 stories, but I heard more than the news journalists speaking.  GOD Himself was whispering in my ear and reminding me of His truths that need to penetrate deep into my heart.

When I came downstairs, the segment on Lisa Kudrow had already started, but I was able to catch the fact that she had tried out for NUMEROUS roles and been rejected time after time after time.  None of the shows took off, nothing seemed to be working out.  THEN, she was hired for a walk-on role as a waitress on the show "Mad About You."  Evidently, that was what she needed to highlight her acting abilities and charm and lovable personality.  Soon after, she was playing Phoebe on Friends, one of the most successful TV shows of all time.

As I thought about her rough beginnings, I wondered what would have happened if Kudrow had given up.  How different would her life had been if she had abandoned her dream of acting?  What if she had let the disappointment and rejection get to her?  What if she had deemed herself a failure and admitted defeat?


Phoebe might have been the typical blonde, but Lisa Kudrow definitely has some life lessons for us to learn!
God DOES have a plan for you.
A plan for a hope and a future (see Jeremiah 29:11).
He has placed dreams, desires, goals, visions, longings, and yearnings deep within your spirit.
Don't ignore them.
Don't push them aside.
Don't dismiss them or belittle them or take them lightly.
Instead, GO for it!

Listen to the truths God has for you, for me, for US in His Word:

"For we are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in  Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." ~Ephesians 2:10

"So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of His call.  May He give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.  Then, the name of the Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with Him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ." ~2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

"Now all glory to God, who is able, through His might power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." ~Ephesians 3:20

As if that encouraging word from the Lord wasn't enough, God continued to speak to me via the next story on CBS.  This time I listened as they shared the story of a mother who lost her son, a Marine.  You wouldn't think a guy who was trained in dance would be one of the toughest men in our Armed Forces, but he was.  Sadly, he was killed in an accident, despite his teams' desperate efforts to save him.  The fire from the explosion was just too much, and they had to helplessly stand by and watch the flames take their friend's life.

To deal with her intense grief, the Marine's mother, a ballet instructor and choreographer, wrote and directed a show to tell the story of her son.  She herself danced in the performance, along with numerous Marines who had served alongside her boy.  When the journalist asked her what her ultimate goal in all of this was, she responded, "I want them to stop wishing they were the ones who had died.  I want them to understand God had a reason for sparing them, that He has a plan for them, and that they need to make the most of each day they have been given and strive to fulfill those plans He has for them."

WOW!!!  What perspective!

Again, I think of truths in Scripture that speak the same message to me, to you, to US today:

God puts you in a specific place at a specific time for a specific reason.

As He did with Esther:
"If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die.  Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?" ~Esther 4:14

And Joshua:
"Therefore, the time has come fro you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them.  I promise you what I promised Moses: 'Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you... No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live.  For I will be with you as I was with Moses.  I will not fail you or abandon you.  Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them.  Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you.  Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left.  Then you will be successful in everything you do.  Study this Book of Instruction continually.  Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it.  Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command - be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." ~Joshua 1:2-9

And Paul:
"But the Lord said, 'Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take My message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.  And I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake.' So Ananias went and found Saul.  He laid his hands on him and said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.'" ~Acts 9:15-17

And YOU:
"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb.  Than you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous - how well I know it.  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.  You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed."  ~Psalm 139:13-16

You would think that my heart was full.
It was.
Overflowing really.

BUT, God likes to pour on the love.
So, He kept speaking to me.

The third story was of a 9-year-old boy losing his sight.  Before he goes fully blind, his parents helped him create a list of things to see.  They have visited the Grand Canyon and seen the Aurora Borealis in Alaska.  They have toured the inside of a water tower and investigated chalk under a microscope.  They have dived into the ocean and seen the wonders of the underwater world.  All their adventures serve a purpose - providing their son with memories NOW so he can relate to his own kids later and talk with them and understand what they are describing to him and live that moment out with them.  

I thought about how often I take my sight for granted.
I wondered what I would put on my "Must See" list if I knew I was going to lose my vision.
I prayed for my brother-in-law Russell who IS losing his sight and how that must feel for him.
I thanked God for my health, my sight.
And I asked Him to help me SEE the world - the people and places around me - through HIS eyes.

We had to rush off to church at that point, but as we made the drive, I couldn't help but think of several more truths in God's Word:

"The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display His craftmanship.  Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known.  They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.  Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world." ~Psalm 19:1-4

"Taste and SEE that the Lord is good.  Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!" ~Psalm 34:8

"Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in Your instructions." ~Psalm 119:18

And then, as if God wanted to confirm all that He had spoken to me via CBS, we sang Colton Dixon's "You Are" during worship.  I got a bit choked up as  I belted out with my fellow brothers and sisters, "If I had no voice, if I had no tongue
I would dance for You like the rising sun
And when that day comes and I SEE your face
I will shout Your endless, glorious praise"

The entire song reminded me of the lessons I had learned while holding a baby on my hip and quickly shoving some yogurt and oatmeal into my mouth:

When I can't find the words
To say how much it hurts
You are the healing in my heart
When all that I can see
Are broken memories
You are the light that's in the dark

I thought of the mother who lost her son while serving our country...

And when my circumstance
Leaves me with empty hands
You're the provider of my needs
When all my dirtiness
Has left me helpless
You are the rain that washes me

I thought of Lisa Kudrow and how she must have felt empty when nothing seemed to be working out for her acting career...

As we sang about the day when we would see Jesus' face, I thought of the boy losing his vision.  Should he put his trust in Jesus as his Savior, this boy has yet to see the most amazing sight possible - Jesus Himself.

For in heaven, there will be no sickness.  
There will be no blindness.  
And our eyes will be fully opened to see God in person, His majesty on complete display.
We will be enveloped by His power and love and grace and glory.
And we will "shout His glorious, endless praise."

Until that day comes, may we be found living out the plans and purposes God has for us.
May we wake up each morning, realizing the fact that we are here on this earth for a reason.
May we believe we are God's workmanship, fearfully and wonderfully made.
May we look deep into our hearts and awaken the dreams and desires God Himself has put within us.
May we have the courage and faith to carry them out and bring them to fruition.
May we remember "greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world."
May we get up, get dressed for battle, and join the victory march.
May we proclaim the goodness of God and spread His love and joy and peace and power to all those we meet.

And may we be listening for God to speak to us...
even if He decides to use CBS...